THE PRODUCTION OF MEANING
what is the code that lets a traﬃc light communicate what it does?
how does a code generate messages?
CODE - sometimes used synonymously with the word grammar, the rules to use the language. in terms of
semiotics, there are key features that make up a code:
• a set of things that can be substituted for each other: a paradigm. this is one chapter of a code. in a traﬃc light,
the substitutable elements are the positions: top, middle, bottom. that is the system of substitubable elements,
those things that can be chosen between.
• combining the substitutable element. the way you combine things is the syntagmatic axis.
paradigmatic axis: what is substitutable. (words?)
syntagmatic axis: how you combine what you have chosen from the substitutable possibilities. (grammar?)
ie traﬃc lights
paradigmatic axis: top (green), middle (yellow), bottom (red).
syntagmatic axis: rules for combining these three options. takes everything logically possible and only allows
certain things and thus allows meaning to be generated through convention.
permitted sequences in our syntagmatic axis: top to middle, middle to bottom, bottom to top. what is not
permitted: top to bottom, bottom to middle, middle to top.
Code is made up of the paradigmatic axis and syntagmatic axis.
the message is go, clear the intersection, and wait/stop.
this is an arbitrary/conventional/systemic sign where the meaning is only taken from the shared understanding of a
code rather than anything actually in the referrent.
SYSTEM OF DIFFERENCES WITHOUT POSITIVE TERMS
we ask not what something means but how something means
the production of meaning is a material process like any other material process, thus there are laws of the
production of meaning. this is very marxist in this sense.
we then ask what the smallest particle/component that semiotics deals with?
- THE SMALLEST PARTICLE OF MEANING IS DIFFERENCE.
We can demonstrate this with the sound-system of english words: pit bit bid bad bag rag lag lap lip tip sip sis miss,
all are diﬀerent english words but each one is only diﬀerent to its neighbor by one sound. it tells us that these
sounds are what linguists call phonemes in the sense that they make a meaningful diﬀerence.
it is just like binary code: it is the diﬀerenc▯ between 0 and 1 that makes meaning out of the arbitrary. by assigning
deliberacy to each diﬀerence, that diﬀerence can then be employed to mark a meaning out from the chaos.
some diﬀerences are meaningful and some are not: ie in english there is no diﬀerence attributed to the diﬀerence
between an aspirated p and an unaspirated p.
this is the way analytic logic works. everything is analyzed in terms of diﬀerences. it is always a hierarchy of this or
it is a key foundation for the way 'linear gutenberg man' thinks, according to mcluhan. McLuhan's resonating
interval thing is all about another way of thinking that is not this or that but both / and because you must hear
both the parts together and in sequence to draw the implications out. so he thought maybe new medias could
teach us to think diﬀerently.
PARADIGMATIC ELEMENTS: p, b, t, d r, l, g
these can be combined with the it sound: pit, bit, tit, dit, rit, lit, git INFINITE ENGLISH SENTENCES
the dog chased the cat
a dog chased this cat
the big dog slowly chased this fast cat
----these are ﬁne
dog the chased the cat
a slowly dog chased a this cat ﬂuﬀy
the dog chased
----these don't work